By MANUEL ERNESTO RIVERA
Associated Press (March 27, 2008)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila was charged Thursday with 19 counts in a campaign finance probe, including conspiracy to violate U.S. federal campaign laws and giving false testimony to the FBI.
The indictment also charged 12 others associated with Acevedo’s Popular Democratic Party as a result of a two-year grand jury investigation, acting U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said.
The 13 are accused of conspiring to illegally raise money to pay off Acevedo’s campaign debts from his 2000 campaign to be the U.S. island territory’s nonvoting member of Congress.
Acevedo, now running for re-election as governor, will not be arrested, Rodriguez said. But at least five others named in the indictment were led in handcuffs into the U.S. federal building in San Juan early Thursday morning.
“The governor will be permitted to turn himself in deference to his position,” she said.
Acevedo has called the campaign finance probe a case of political persecution by federal officials, partly for his criticism of a September 2005 FBI raid in which a fugitive militant Puerto Rican independence leader was killed.
His allegation has support in Puerto Rico, where many feel a deep-rooted nationalism and hostility toward the U.S. federal government.
A Harvard-educated attorney and career politician, Acevedo, 45, served in Washington as the island’s nonvoting delegate to Congress, and was elected governor in 2004 after campaigning on an anti-corruption platform.
Acevedo’s party favors maintaining the island’s semiautonomous relationship with the U.S. mainland. His leading opponent in this year’s governor’s race favors making Puerto Rico the 51st state.